Yangon lost its title as Myanmar’s capital in 2006 (that would be Naypyidaw), but the city is still the beating heart of the country. From high-rises to street vendors to colonial buildings, the city is an addictive mix of sights and sounds.
The dominating feature of the city, and the first stop on any tour, is the massive Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s 2,500 years old ¬– the oldest in the world – and draws visitors from many countries. Do as the locals do and go for a couple of hours just to hang out, relax, and do some excellent people watching. From here, head to Chaukhtatgyi Paya, an impressive 65m reclining Buddha that takes several minutes to walk around.
The sprawling Bogyoke Aung San Market is where you’ll find more than 2,000 shops selling a huge selection of souvenirs and handicrafts, including lacquerware, puppets, fabrics from Myanmar’s ethnic minority tribes and pretty much anything else you can think of. Keep in mind that the market is closed on Mondays.
Eating in Yangon is one of its greatest pleasures, as the cuisine has been influenced by the neighbouring countries of China, India and Thailand. You can usually find breakfast, be it noodles or fried Indian snacks, at one of the city’s myriad teahouses, which are also excellent places for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up of strong tea topped up with sweet milk.
If you have just a few hours in Yangon, it’s best to simply hop on the train. The ‘circle line’ takes three hours to loop around 46km of suburbs, towns and central Yangon, combining sights that range from cows in the countryside to bustling city streets. Buy your ticket at Yangon Central Railway Station, an architectural mishmash that’s a destination in its own right.